IN OUR PREVIOUS ISSUE, we considered some of the benefits and challenges you can expect from marriage.
IN THIS ISSUE, we’ll discuss why you need to expect the unexpected.
Select from the following options any that apply:
I expect my future spouse to . . .
- be physically attractive
- make me feel good about myself
- have the same goals that I have
- enjoy the same type of recreation that I enjoy
If you’re looking for a marriage mate, there’s nothing wrong with having these expectations. You might even find someone who meets all of them. Realistically, though, over time people change—and so do circumstances.
The bottom line: To make a success of marriage, you must expect the unexpected.
The good news. Some unexpected aspects of marriage may come as a pleasant surprise.
“Now that we’re married, I see Maria’s * sense of humor in a way that I never fully appreciated while we were dating. Because we don’t take ourselves too seriously, even the problems we’ve encountered seem less significant.”—Mark.
The not-so-good news. Some unexpected aspects of marriage may be unpleasant. Consider an example.
Suppose you and your future spouse have a goal to do missionary work in a foreign land. But what if, after marriage, your mate develops a serious health problem that puts the goal out of reach? Realistically, that’s possible, as the Bible says that “bad things happen to everyone!” (Ecclesiastes 9:11, Holy Bible—Easy-to-Read Version) No doubt you’d be distressed over your mate’s condition—and disappointed over not reaching your goal. If such an unexpected circumstance arose, however, you’d simply have to accept reality and adjust. After all, you married a person, not a goal.
The bottom line: As the Bible states, those who marry will have a measure of “tribulation.” (1 Corinthians 7:28) Sometimes that tribulation comes from unexpected circumstances.
How can you prepare for the unexpected? If you get married, you’ll need two things.
1. A REALISTIC OUTLOOK
No matter how compatible you and your future spouse may be, you should expect that
- you will not always agree on everything.
- you will not always have the same priorities.
- you will not always enjoy the same activities.
- you will not always feel euphorically in love.
Situations such as those listed above are common. But they will not ruin your marriage unless you let them! Remember, the Bible says that love “endures all things” and “never fails.”—1 Corinthians 13:4, 7, 8.
Fact of life: In the end, it’s not the problems you encounter but how you deal with them that will make or break your marriage.—Colossians 3:13.
2. A SENSE OF COMMITMENT
If you and your spouse are determined to stay together, come what may, you’ll be better able to weather the unexpected storms.—Matthew 19:6.
Some claim that commitment makes a marriage burdensome. Really, though, it does the opposite! Commitment gives your relationship stability. When the unexpected occurs, you and your spouse will look for solutions, not for the nearest exit.
To cultivate a spirit of commitment, you’ll need to think about marriage rationally rather than idealistically. To illustrate the difference, try the following exercise.
1. Imagine that you have a free airline ticket to travel anywhere in the world. Which destination would you choose, and why?
2. Imagine that your airline ticket is one-way and that your destination will be your permanent residence.
Now which destination—if any—would you choose?
- or I would stay where I am.
In the above exercise, your first and second destination choices probably differ. Even if they’re the same, likely you had to think differently about your second choice. Rather than imagine yourself as a vacationer who’s lounging on a beach or hiking in the mountains, you had to think of yourself as a resident who is facing both the benefits and the challenges of daily life.
That’s how you need to think about marriage. After all, with the passing of time, circumstances may change. No doubt you and your spouse will too. Much of your success will depend on your ability to expect the unexpected and to deal with it when it arises.
To think about: How well do you deal with unexpected situations in life right now, as a single person?
^ par. 15 Some names in this article have been changed.
WHY NOT ASK YOUR PARENTS?
What unexpected blessings and challenges did you face when you were newly married? How can I prepare for the unexpected if I get married?